In this retrospective series, we’ll use 20/20 hindsight to play General Manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers to review past drafts – focusing primarily on top 2-3 selections – and personnel decisions year-by-year and redraft or implement trades based on the Steelers roster at the time.
General rule: Any “redrafted” pick will generally fall within a 15-pick range and trade propositions being realistic and attainable.
Chuck Noll Tells Tony Dungy: “Don’t Even Bother”
1987 Steelers Draft: 1st Round – #10 Overall; 2nd Round – #38 Overall
The 1986 Steelers pass defense was abysmal and there was little argument that Rod Woodson was the best defensive back prospect in the NFL Draft. Chuck Noll thought so highly of Woodson that while organizing their pre-draft schedule, he told his new Defensive Coordinator Tony Dungy to not waste his time to visit him. Noll was that certain Woodson would not last until the #10 pick. However, Woodson qualified for the 1988 Olympics and was public about his desire to compete (which would have meant he had to retain his amateur status) which likely factored into his slipping.
Plus they had a little luck:
- The Cleveland Browns traded their star LB Chip Banks for the #5 overall pick over a contract dispute. The Browns then drafted Duke LB Mike Junkin in a selection that was just as puzzling then at it remains today.
- The St. Louis Cardinals drafted QB Kelly Stouffer — who would never even sign or play for the team.
Rod Woodson: per “Steelers Takeaways” – Ron Lippet
“I never talked to Pittsburgh – I had no conversations with them at all throughout the process. I did talk to the Chargers and New Orleans, who I think would have taken me right after Pittsburgh. I knew that if I was there at Pittsburgh’s pick they would take me. Stouffer and Junkin were taken before me – earlier than most people thought they would be. I was blessed to end up going to one of the best sports organizations in all of sports. When they called me, they asked if I would mind being a Steeler. I was like, really? Definitely! It was one of my best memories, sitting at home in Indiana with my family together when I got that call.”
Woodson may have been the best player outside of Joe Greene to ever don a Steelers uniform and it still is irritating that Tom Donahoe tried lowballing him when it came to his contract negotiations after the 1996 season. He was the youngest of the 5 active players that were named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994 and the 1993 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was the cornerstone behind the Steelers dominating defensive resurgence known as Blitzburgh.
When the media asked Noll what he thought of the pick, he smiled and replied:
I’m in love with him.
“I wasn’t hired for my Disposition”
Greg Lloyd was drafted in the 6th round and deserves as much recognition as Woodson for being the strength of the Blitzburgh Defense. He wasn’t hired for his disposition — but he is on the Steelers Mt. Rushmore of LBs. At a time when the Steelers defense was becoming vanilla and unintimidating, Lloyd brought back the intimidation factor that Jack Lambert once bestowed among the Steelers LB core.
Though injuries would delay us from getting a taste of what Lloyd would bring until his 1st year as a starter in 1989 (where he would register 7 sacks, 3 INTs and recover 3 fumbles and force another) – Lloyd set the standard for the OLB in the Blitzburgh scheme and was a strip sack machine as he forced 32 forced fumbles over the 5 consecutive years named to the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro 3x. He was robbed of acknowledgement when it came to naming the best LBs of the 1990s – as he was better than 2 former teammates in Hardy Nickerson and Levon Kirkland who won the honors. Lloyd was named UPI Defensive Player of the Year in 1994.
His career ended like it began, between injuries and a staph infection preventing him from impacting his final 2 seasons, Lloyd was a Hall of Fame OLB had he been healthy to finish his career.
The rest of the 1987 Draft was phenomenal:
- Hardy Nickerson, Thomas Everett, Merrill Hoge and Delton Hall — all great picks that the Steelers rebuilt their success on.
Redrafting 1987: Why couldn’t we make that trade?
While the draft earned and deserved the A – there was a massive missed opportunity. The QB position was incredibly weak. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just selected QB Vinny Testeverde #1 overall, leaving former USFL star QB Steve Young open for a trade. While it is true that Young was less than stellar in his short time with the Buccaneers, much of that was attributable to the horrible state of the team at the time (coming off the Bo Jackson debacle). The rumor is the St. Louis Cardinals made a pitch to the San Francisco 49ers to offer only a 2nd and 4th (#50 and #106) plus a reported $1M in cash. While I am not certain that Rooney had the $1M that Eddie Debartolo had, this was a golden opportunity to make a pitch for a Hall of Fame QB that would have aligned with the talent the Steelers 1990s and certainly would have resulted in 1-2 more Lombardi Trophies.
What do you think? Should the Steelers have gone after Steve Young? How would it have turned out?